Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last six years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason is nearing two years with the Star Tribune.
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The Gophers are back to full strength.
Freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski has been cleared to play and will be back in the lineup this weekend against Penn State.
Brodzinski was sidelined one month with a lower-body injury sustained during the Jan. 24 meeting with St. Cloud State and brother Jonny Brodzinski. Though the Gophers do not issue details about injuries, reports surfaced of an MCL sprain.
There appeared to be no lingering effects during Wednesday’s practice, however he’ll have to earn his way back, coach Don Lucia said.
“The weekend, it was good to have off. The players, mentally and physically, could take a breath and concentrate on school a little bit, and get rid of all those little nicks and bruises you have over the course of the season,” Lucia said. “[Brodzinski has] got to get back to speed, but we’re going to do everything we can to get him back in a game this weekend.”
The Gophers will have options with a seventh defenseman back in the mix. Brodzinski played 13 consecutive games before going down. He had been paired with Mike Reilly after defenseman Jake Parenteau broke his leg in early December, but with everyone healthy, pairings could change.
Size on the blue line will matter against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are older and bigger than the Gophers, despite it being only their second year of varsity hockey.
They are 2-2-1 in their last five games with a pair of wins against No. 13-ranked Michigan.
• The senior class will in the spotlight this weekend at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers’ five veterans – Nate Condon, Tom Serratore, Justin Holl, Jake Parenteau and Michael Shibrowski – will be honored during Saturday’s Senior Day.
It’s the Gophers final home series of the season.
The old Western Collegiate Hockey Association used to play the first round of the conference tournament at home sites, but the Big Ten Conference will host its full tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, March 20-22.
The Gophers are on the road at Ohio State and Michigan the last two weeks of the regular season.
• The Blue Line Club will meet on Friday at O’Gara’s (Snelling and Selby) for its final luncheon of the season. The topic will be player development with guest speakers Dave Snuggerud, Chris McAlpline and tentatively Lance Pitlick.
Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. with the program to follow. Tickets are $20 for Blue Line Club members and $25 for non-members. RSVPs are recommended by phone 612-625-2886 or use Blue Line Online online reservation form.
• Up next: Penn State at No. 2 Gophers, Friday 8 p.m. and Saturday 67 p.m.
Wednesday's media access video
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Gophers coach Don Lucia:
Gophers senior forward Nate Condon: